Random News of the Day: Punt it away

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Random News of the Day: Punt it away

Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010
12:32 PM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

The lead up to football season kind of reminds me of those chocolate calendars that circulate around the holidays. Anybody ever see those things? As a kid, I remember that I would open up the December 1 tab, and it would always have a ridiculous eyedrop-sized piece of chocolate. And it was usually stale. But hey, it was still chocolate. Day by day, the chocolates would get bigger. The Super Bowl of that chocolate calendar would be opened on December 24th. It was usually a bulky, warped, half dollar-sized chocolate Santa Claus, which looked more like David Crosby than Kris Kringle. It was still stale, but given the fanfare around the holiday it tasted pretty good.

Football training camp would be tantamount to, say, the first week of December of that calendar. We get a little taste of what lies ahead in the preseason, regular season, playoffs and all of the sweetness that makes up the Super Bowl. And even though the chocolate still tastes stale at times, we still eat it up like were at a Vegas buffet. Certain parts of the NFL have become stale, too. I dont want to rock the boat too much, because a bad day with football is usually much better than a good day without it. But there are a few items in the NFL that are facing 4th and long. Its time to drop back and punt a few of these annoyances away:

Just Get Rid Of Two Preseason Games Already: As we know, each team gets four preseason gamesusually two on the road and two at home (or one at a neutral site). NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already gone on the record in favor of the 18-game schedule, saying by taking one of the home preseason games and converting it into a regular season, youre improving the quality of what youre doing. Thats value. Some critics oppose, saying that an 18-game schedule could open the door to more player injuries and a diminished product later in the year. Pssh. Come on. With all of the new rules, like no horse-collar tackles and other rules that protect the quarterback, I dont buy the injury argument. Players are treated like glass dolls today. Come on, this is football. An 18-game schedule would bring more fan interest, increased ratings, and thus, more moneysomething that the NFL likes to make out with all the time. Get it done.Do What College Football Does About Overtime: We all know that football revolves around big TV ratings, big dollars and big hype. Why not take a page out of college footballs scrapbook and put their overtime procedures in place for the NFL? Each team gets a possession at the 25 yard line. You keep going until one team scores more on their possession than the other. Imagine the hysteria on a Bears-Packers game that is in the 4th OT with the score tied at 55. Heck, you would even draw in the figure skating viewers from other networks. Plus, it eliminates the clammy tie games that gunk up the playoff scenarios towards the end of the season. Stop Giving Raiders-Chiefs Games To Gus Johnson: Im not exactly sure why CBS puts Gus Johnson, one of the most exciting voices in sports, on the fourth-tiered (or lower) game of the week. Seeing Gus Johnson broadcast a game between a couple of 3-10 teams is like listening to a Master Of Puppets-era Metallica play in a mall food court. Sure, its still Metallica, but everything else around it just reeks of bad cheddar. Forget network seniority. Give this man the microphone in a game that means something. Wait, now that I think about it, Gus can make a Raiders-Chiefs game sound like the Super Bowl hopped up on Jolt Cola. Might have to rethink that one a little.Give Coaches A Pulse: The NFL is great, but its getting way too Wal-Mart-like: too much sterility, not enough personality. End zone celebrations are penalized, taunting is penalized and cookie-cutter, cyborg-like personalities are welcomed. And damage control is a core class in the NFL school of higher learning. The majority of NFL head coaches today are far too sensitive in their appearance and demeanor, especially in press conferences. Everything is squeaky clean and by the book. Just once, I would like to see a coach go on a postgame tirade and start throwing chairs like its a Maury Povich show. Then, the camera can follow the coach away from the podium for a during the break reaction. Fun! Best of all, promise the coach that he doesnt have to produce a mundane, forced apology the next day. Wouldnt that be a nice change of pace?The Pro Bowl: Footballs version of an all-star game is like Thanksgiving at your Aunt Sylvias. The sly ones that arent there turned in their get-out-of-jail-free cards weeks in advance. And the ones that are there are mailing it in more than the U.S. Postal Service. We all go through the motions in fake-liking holiday parties. The athletes in the Pro Bowl are no different. But can you blame them? This game is played by junior high football rules (no blitzing, etc). And putting the contest a week before the Super Bowl isnt going to help draw much more interestfrom players and fans alike. Heres a crazy idea: put the Pro Bowl on the same day of the Super Bowl, with the winning Pro Bowl team securing the coin-toss win for their representative team in the Super Bowl. Think about it, your Super Bowl pregame show loses the sappy 11-minute feature stories and gets legitimate interest. Only issue would be that if the site happened to be an outdoor facility, and it were to rain, the field would get ripped to shreds for the real game hours later. Orjust get rid of the Pro Bowl entirely.Look, the NFL is still 98 fun to me. But Piniella-isms aside, a few changes can make the league even sweeter.

It might even taste as good as that chocolate at the end of December. Especially if the Bears win a few games here and there.

Or something like that.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.